Ian Holloway On Mike Ashley And Why Steve Bruce's Sunderland Connection Doesn't Matter

Ian Holloway by Ian Holloway / 07 August 2019, 10:31

Ahead of the new Premier League season we asked Ollie what he thought about the most recent top flight managerial appointment and how he’ll work under Mike Ashley at Newcastle.

On Bruce's Return to the top flight

“My first reaction is that I’m shocked, not due to the fact they chose him, but due to Sheffield Wednesday and how they welcomed him last year.

“To be honest trying to replace Rafael Benitez won’t be an easy job for anyone to be fair. That was my initial reaction.

“But obviously knowing him personally and where he’s from, knowing how much Newcastle means to him, knowing that’s one of the jobs he would of wanted, I can probably understand why he wanted it.

“For him, in a way, I’m quite happy he’s got it.”

On his own experiences of facing Bruce in the dugout

“To be honest in my very last job, the hardest time I faced him was when he just took over at Aston Villa.

“It was probably one of my young team’s very best performances. Two young kids in two roles they have never played before and we won 3-1, just after they smashed Wolves 4-1 a couple of days earlier.

“I’ve got to say Ryan Manning was fantastic, he scored and (Eberechi) Eze was just sensational. I rested Luke Freeman, brought him on from the bench and he scored the third goal. Everything I did that night went totally right.”

“The other one I remember well was when we beat Hull City 3-0 when I was at Crystal Palace. I took a massive gamble because they were playing three at the back and I left three up front when they were attacking, and we won 3-0.

“He came and spoke to me after the game and said ‘How could you do that?’. All I knew was that I could keep Kevin Phillips upfront and he could get a hat-trick, so what more do you need to do?”

On Steve Bruce as a manager

“The fact is that he’s such a wonderful fella and I know a lot of supporters probably won’t feel that because he got a bit of stick at Sunderland. In the end Villa gave him a bit of stick even though he got them into the Play-Off final.

“They lost, but it wasn’t his fault and he’s got promoted four times, he’s a record holder in that regard and he’s an ex-Manchester United captain who worked under Sir Alex Ferguson, so he can’t be a bad choice can he?

On whether Newcastle fans will warm to Bruce due to Sunderland connection

“Listen, he’s so experienced I don’t think any of it matters. What he needs to do is get his personality imprinted on what he would see as his club.

“With him coming from Newcastle, it’s a very special bond. You’ve got to go where the work is, you’ve got to do what you can and you’re always going to believe you’re going to win and you’re going to do well.

“The fact of the matter is he’s so experienced and he knows how to manage upwards. So obviously the fans have lost Rafael Benitez, who they loved, I thought Rafa did a spectacular job.

“I’ve always said to myself, ‘What would one of these great managers do on a smaller budget in the Championship’, and he proved it, he got them promoted back to the Premier League.

“He did it for the fans under difficult circumstances as Mike Ashley is not popular in Newcastle. So, if there’s anyone who can bring it back for them, if they’re patient with him, then I think it’s Steve.

“Who’s really going to want to take over that role after losing Perez and losing Rondon? I’ve been thoroughly impressed with what Steve has said so far, and he will not be a puppet and he won’t be pushed around.

“He knows what he’s doing and hopefully he will rub off on Mike Ashley a bit, because really Newcastle with their support base should be, and are, a massive football club. So hopefully they can start moving up the table.

On what he thinks Bruce and Newcastle’s expectations for next season

“When you had a minus six goal difference last year, you finished 13th, you scored 42 goals and let in 48 and you’ve lost the two players who scored a large percentage of those goals, then you hope that Joelinton pays off immediately.

“Normally when a player moves from abroad, they take a bit of time to settle in. If he can get a couple of goals and Newcastle fans can grow to love him, then you don’t know what can happen.

“Almiron who they signed last season, he could come to the forefront. He’s got a bit of pace about him and Steve always gets the best out of people.

“I’m very pleased for a very good man. You’re never going to replace Rafa because Rafa was a bit special.”

On Mike Ashley

“He must have something about him as he’s a fantastic businessman.

“He’s here there and everywhere. He’s self-made but I don’t see it as Newcastle belonging to him, they belong to the community.

“Unfortunately he’s the custodian of it and he has to make sure that somewhere along the line that the club keeps growing.

“All I can see is the fan’s don’t think he’s spent enough money and they don’t think he’s doing what they want.

“Hopefully Steve’s appointment will go swimmingly well and all those Geordies will be dancing up to the ground.”

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